Demonstrating God’s Love Together
Bigwords ..... Sex
Song of Songs 5:2-16
When thinking about a potential list of ‘Big-Words’ for this series ‘Sex’ was one of the first words I thought of. It’s a word that dominates our society, its all around us, it permeates almost every discussion and decision. In our advertising and our media, in art and literature, in our news stories, whether it be sexual assaults, underage pregnancy statistics, the spread of aids, the latest debate at the general synod we cannot escape it. Of course then I thought, no I won’t it’s too difficult, awkward or embarrassing. But then I thought again about my Bible and I thought of Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah and Hagar, Lot in
2 stories….. (reading from 'Song of Songs' & excerpt from 'Atonement')
One of those stories is from the Bible, the other from a contemporary novel, ‘Atonement’, the film adaptation of which recently won best film at the BAFTA’s. Both speak about the strong passions than human relationships have the capacity to create. Emotions that can blot out all other thoughts, that can make us forget almost everything, even who we are. Feelings that are essential, biologically, but also, because they are so deep and so basic to us, connect with our souls.
Once again it starts at the beginning, in Genesis. Our first point then is
Our Identity as Sexual Beings…
Its all there, in the beginning, man and women, different and complementary, built for perfect relationship together. But then it’s broken, and its now all about guilt and shame and embarrassment and awkwardness, about blame shifting and pain and estrangement. All the stuff with which we are far too familiar.
We are all sexual beings, whether we are in a sexual relationship or not. Sexuality is not simply about what we do, it’s a big part of who we are. Remember the embarrassment of taking your kids to a zoo or wildlife park when the animals get overly amorous. The recognition that we, as human beings, are different – can’t imagine lioness’ complaining of headaches or wondering if he’ll really love her in the morning or groups of male antelopes stressing about how the females are always looking for commitment and demanding that they take the rubbish out – we are different and that difference is part of our bearing the image of God.
The Supremacy of Connecting Love:
For us then, uniquely, in the midst of all these hormones and biology, something else is going on. Both our readings recognised it as ‘Love’ the second word of the three in the unspoken emphasis, that sealed that unseen contract. The whole theme of the extraordinary poem that is the Song of Solomon.
Now that doesn’t mean that any sexual action can be justified simply by saying ‘but I loved him/her’. But it does mean that if our sexuality is not to demean, dominate, and potentially destroy us it needs to be placed under the authority of something bigger. That something of course is God himself, but specifically, the love that comes from him, which he defines and which supersedes easily corrupted notions of romance or sentiment.
In personal relationships marriage, brings together those divine attributes of love; commitment, sacrifice, exclusivity and so becomes the safe and proper place for the physical expression of our sexuality. But in a wider sense our sexuality – the God-given spark of passion within us to express and receive love in a fuller, richer way, to connect with the world and with people around us far more than mere animals – can be focussed elsewhere. In a passion for justice, the poor, for the church or god’s service in a particular way.
Finally, lets return to our reading from scripture. It is extraordinary, a poem like that, why is that part of the word of God for us? Well, like all scripture, It tells us something about us, in our relationships, and God.
The Risk of Romance and the God of Love:
The reason why all of these sexual, romantic imagery and ideals, even when they’re so cheapened, sell so many records and are the stuff of so many stories is because it touches something deep inside us all. Its exciting and heartbreaking all in one. In part because it’s dangerous, risky.
This part of the poem that is the Song of Songs can be seen as an expansion of the famous New Testament verse of Jesus; ‘Behold I Stand at the door and knock’. Standing behind the door is someone who has dared to knock, to make him himself known, to express a desire to come in. But the door still needs to be opened, the offer accepted, and quickly, before he walks away. When love is offered rejection is always possible.
In the poem she’s too late, and he’s gone … and she ‘died inside’. Who doesn’t know that feeling, the feeling of unrequited love, the capacity to love is universal, and so is the ache that goes with it. It’s universal because it’s as old as the hills, it’s something God feels. We’re used to images of God as a judge, a warrior, a father even …. but a lover? A lover whose heart is crushed by the slowness of his love to respond to him, and so writes a poem about it. That’s the Song of Songs and it sets up all that is to follow in the New Testament story, of a Jesus who comes, in humility and brokenness to woo and to win.
And so these pictures of love and romance, including its physical and sexual side, are there in God and in his word. Yes to warn us about the pitfalls and the dangers, but also to remind us of the beauty and the glory that we have, as those who have been created by him. To challenge us that the emotions and passions that fill our lives are not to be feared, but recognised as being, when rightly used, echoes of God’s desire for us and his passion to re-connect with the beautiful world he has made.
To return to the beginning, and my suspicion that many people struggle with this. My aim, I guess today, is to say if that’s you .. its ok to struggle. These things are difficult and to not have them all sorted and at ease doesn’t make you peculiarly wicked. But to encourage you at the same time that there is a way forward … that doesn’t deny who we are or what we feel, but that declares Jesus is Lord over all of it and seeks to love him as wholeheartedly as he loves us.